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Thursday, June 22, 2006

I stand convicted

I stand convicted by the Holy Spirit by means of Bloomington City Councilman Stephen Volan.

Yesterday, I planned to go to the City Council meeting. On the agenda was the allocation of funds to Social Service agencies who have requested funds from the city. Planned Parenthood was on that list. I planned to go, but I did not plan to speak. Then I went to to check out their links to their merchandise on (I tell you all of this because it is the way God takes me where He takes me; I did this to find that but I found what God wanted me to find instead) because I was checking it out for my daughter who wants to merchandise her Crabsterware. One of the Pyromaniacs, James Spurgeon, posts clips from C.H. Spurgeon's sermons periodically. This one, "Turn or Burn" completely captivated me.

I became convinced, through the recent Sunday School lessons and Ptr. Currell's sermon about wielding the Sword on 6/4/06 (, and my restlessness at Planned Parenthood, and reading this Spurgeon sermon before everyone else arrived at City Hall, that I may be there to call the council and Bloomington, America and us to repentance. Also I heard a brother behind me say that it would be good for more people to come forward to speak if only to say that they opposed the using of public funds to fund Planned Parenthood.

So I sat in the City Council meeting last night, my face flushed, my heart pounding in my ears; I may have been sweating, I don't know. I rehearsed many senarios in my head, remembering from time to time that Jesus told His disciples not to plan what they say when they came before the authorities.

As an intern gave a report on the research he did into the history of the Bloomington City Council, I thought about defending myself, "I realize that I appear to be a fool to you... but I'm not." (when they take you before the council, do not worry about what you will say...) As someone did a report compiled by an intern about properties that are petitioning to continue their tax abatements, I thought about flattering the council, "I can see that you are wise and concerned about the plight of the needy." ( not worry about what you will say for the Spirit will teach you what you are to say at that time.)

Finally they got to the issue of concern. They went through the list of organizations that the committee had decided to present to the council for approval. Then they asked for public comment. I heard Scott Tibbs go forward to speak. Scott often attends and speaks at council meetings. He seemed very at ease, speaking. Then David Canfield spoke. He also spoke well, if not as comfortably as Scott. David Talcott, who must be used to speaking in front of groups while teaching at IU, spoke also. He was calm and quiet and had a well-thought out presentation. Carole Canfield also spoke at the podium. She expressed her disagreement with funding an organization that kills children and that although Bloomington is safe and civil, it is not on Thursday mornings for children in their mother's wombs.

At some point in there, a woman unknow to me came forward to speak. She indicated that she came to Bloomington as a student and stayed. She applauded Planned Parenthood for their contribution to this community and how they help women in distress.

The council asked if there were any other comments. I had decided, sort of (it may have been a ploy to delay the decision), that if I were to call people to repentance, it ought to be after the deed was done (I think I am wrong).

Then the council members made their comments. Some of them were thought provoking and provided material for rebuttal. One mentioned back alley abortions in the same tone that my mother in law does. One said that although this council does not have the power to fix the wrongs of this community/world, (God does...nope) these organizations can fix them. One of them said that Planned Parenthood was not the only controversial organization on the list, and that there was one that helped people get off drugs that was equally controversial (??). Stephen Volan, not once, but two separate times, said (was he looking right at me the second time?) that it is everyone's responsibility to come forward and speak at these events.

Then they voted. It was unanimous. All the petitioning organizations were approved.

Then I thought I would raise my hand and ask to speak. The the head guy started to speak about the next issue on the docket and still I thought I would speak; and then all of my brothers and sisters started to get up and leave. And ... still... I thought I would...speak up...

Then I got up and left too.

Hear the Word of the Lord from Ezekiel, and tremble:

Ezekiel 33:7-9 (ESV)
"So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.


ConservaTibbs said...

Thanks for coming, anyway. The councilors knew that there were several people there to oppose the corporate welfare to PP, and that we were all sitting together. Just being in the audience does a lot.

It's only 16 months until the next city election.

Rachel Pierson said...


Thank you so much for stopping in, and for commenting. You are much braver than I am.


Steve Volan said...
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Steve Volan said...
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Steve Volan said...

"I stand convicted by the Holy Spirit by means of Bloomington City Councilman Stephen Volan....
"Stephen Volan, not once, but two separate times, said (was he looking right at me the second time?) that it is everyone's responsibility to come forward and speak at these events."

I am Stephen Volan. I came across your post while surfing the Web tonight.

I cannot confirm that the Holy Spirit spoke to you through me. I would not presume even to indulge the premise. I do not know you, and do not recall whom I looked directly at during my speech that night. I can tell you only what I was thinking when I said the words you quote from me.

Too often the only people who speak before the council of our fair city are crackpots, people with axes to grind against third parties wholly unrelated to our agenda, or grandstanders looking for any forum for their egos. We of course get exasperated by such hijacking of the agenda of a public body, as anyone who sits behind the dais would; we have lives that we want to go back to. But part of our duty is to protect the forum we have created to resolve, as peaceably and expediently as possible, problems and conflict in the public sphere. That includes protecting the right of anyone and everyone to address the council, which represents all the people of the city.

Because so few reasonable people avail themselves of the opportunity to speak publicly in the council chambers, it can appear that only crackpots speak in public. They erode the forum. As much as I disagree philosophically with Mr. Tibbs, I respect his speeches before the council, because he at least respects the forum: he speaks directly to topics of relevance to the community, and he does not pretend that we on the dais are absent or unthinking fellow citizens.

I believe that all you need do to redeem yourself of the conviction you are convinced has been passed upon you, is to not be afraid to speak your mind the next time. That is why the forum exists: so that you may speak. As long as you live, breathe, can form complete sentences, and encounter an issue before council that matters to you, I would hope that you would speak publicly to that issue. (In this country, even if individuals do not always practice it, as a people we have expressed through law our will that others not be killed simply for expressing themselves, as my namesake St. Stephen -- feastday December 27 -- was.)

When you speak, though, do not expect any one speech you make to have an immediate impact. But also do not assume that your speech is therefore unnecessary, undesired or worthless. Your speech may not affect the vote. I have been on council for three years and have yet to see any one of my speeches in chambers directly alter the outcome of a vote. (The only example I can recall of any such speech was the "Shrimp Guy" in 2005 -- the vendor who spoke about the issue of being permitted to sell his non-local wares outside the by-definition-local Farmers' Market. Such speeches are rare, and not necessarily momentous.)

The very act of speaking alters the outcome, regardless of the vote, if it serves an inspiration [sic] to others to attend to public affairs. Done well, it can have as much power as a councilmember's vote. At its least, it strengthens the forum that enables such speech. All you must overcome is your reluctance to speak.